Rescued from Distress
Deliverance apparently has different meanings to different people. Generally it means being rescued from a threatening situation. To some, it might bring the 1972 Burt Reynolds film to mind, where buddies on a camping trip needed deliverance from some dangerous hillbillies (Two thumbs down, by the way). The movie was graphic and violent. Even though most of us have never been in that kind of situation, it resonated with enough viewers to be the top Box Office hit that year.
But most of us would be happy to receive deliverance if we were in danger. The Apostle Paul had some notable experiences and he wrote to Timothy about it: “You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them.” (2 Timothy 3:10-11 NIV)
Quite a Resume
As a missionary, Paul was no stranger to persecution and danger. He experienced some incredible trials and hardships on his journeys as recorded in the Book of Acts. Paul mentioned in 2 Corinthians 11 that he was flogged, imprisoned, and shipwrecked (among other things). He traveled the world on foot and by sailing vessels in conditions that were primitive at best..
While writing here to Timothy, he speaks of being rescued at Antioch, Iconium and Lystra during his First Missionary journey. As he reminds Timothy, “you know all about” these events. There’s an interesting detail to note about this: Paul rejoices in his deliverance by the Lord in each place. “The Lord rescued me from all of them.”
Sure enough, at Antioch and Iconium, he escaped angry mobs and persecution. Dr. Luke recorded the events in the Book of Acts. They left Antioch and “shook the dust off their feet”. At Iconium, opposition was stirred up, but Acts 14:6-7 says, “…they found out about it and fled to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding country where they continued to preach the gospel”.
At Lystra, the deliverance Luke describes is very different. Acts 14:19 says the mob caught Paul and STONED HIM and left him for dead. Yeah, you read that correctly: they hit Paul with big rocks until they assumed he was dead, and yet Paul includes that in his list of places where the Lord delivered him.
Maybe Paul’s definition of being rescued is different than mine, but I would normally classify being pelted with rocks and left for dead as a loss rather than a win. Not so for Paul. What he teaches Timothy is far more profound. He basically says that sometimes God delivers us FROM the stones, and sometimes He delivers us THROUGH the stones. Faith enables us to see that deliverance is not always the absence of hardship or pain, but it’s finding God’s comforting presence in the midst of them.
On your journey through this world, I hope that the Lord may give you a present of pure escape, and that He protects you from calamity or misfortune. But the next time you are being pelted by the stones of life, remember that when you don’t receive His presents, you will definitely receive His Presence. And perhaps like Paul, you will have a broader definition of “deliverance from” and “deliverance through”.
From or Through
Paul said there were many persecutions he endured,
But every time, he said, the Lord’s protection was assured.
In Antioch he left the presence of an angry crowd;
He shook their dust beneath his feet and walked off strong and proud.
Iconium’s unbelievers turned into an angry mob,
But Paul escaped before they had a chance to do the job.
At Lystra, Paul said God delivered him; but read the text:
You may have missed the part where Luke described what happened next!
The angry mob caught up with Paul; the Riot Act was read,
And Paul was taken up and stoned (with ROCKS!) and left for dead!
And yet, Paul says, he was delivered from the persecution,
Including Lystra, where they carried out his execution.
The stones of life will come, Paul said, so here’s what you must do:
Remember God delivers us FROM stones. And also THROUGH.
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